The SC said that if any ‘untoward spread of COVID-19’ occurs following the relaxations in the state, the public can approach the bench which will take appropriate action.

People at a mobile shop in Kerala's KozhikodeImage for representation / PTI
news Court Tuesday, July 20, 2021 - 12:17

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, July 20 came down heavily on the Kerala government for announcing a three-day relaxation on the COVID-19 restrictions in the state, in the name of Bakrid celebrations. The Kerala government had allowed shops, including those selling non-essential items, to open from July 18 to 20. In category D areas, where the COVID-19 test positivity rate is above 15%, the Kerala government allowed shops to function on July 19, as part of the relaxation. The Supreme Court’s criticism came amid many health experts and organisations including the Indian Medical Association, slamming the move to reopen businesses when caseload is still high in the state.

Hearing a plea against the relaxation, the SC bench headed by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, stated that the relaxation in the category D areas was “uncalled for” and that relaxations for a whole day in category D areas is “extremely alarming”. The SC has also directed that if “an untoward COVID-19 spread” occurs following the relaxations, the public can approach the bench which will take appropriate action against the government, Live Law reports.

The application was filed in the matter when the Supreme Court had last week taken suo motu cognisance of media reports on the Uttar Pradesh government's decision to allow Kanwar Yatra amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The application, which raised the issue of relaxation in restrictions in Kerala, for intervention in the suo motu matter was filed by Delhi-based PKD Nambiar, who has sought a stay on the state's decision.

The bench also added that it shows “a sordid state of affairs” to see the government give in to pressure by groups, religious and otherwise, which leads to increased exposure to the coronavirus pandemic. “Given to pressure so that the citizenry of India is laid bare to a nationwide pandemic discloses a sorry state of affairs. Even otherwise assurances from traders and nothing more do not inspire any confidence in the people of India or this Court,” Live Law quotes the bench as having said.

“We state that this affidavit discloses a sorry state of affairs as has been stated above and does not in any real manner safeguard the right to life and health guaranteed under Article 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution of India,” the bench further added.

 

 

The Kerala government had on Monday, in a reply to the Supreme Court bench, said that the relaxations were announced to succor traders who are counting on sales during Bakrid to aid them amid the hardship induced by the pandemic.

The decision to open shops for Bakrid came after a meeting with the traders’ organisations Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi, after many shopkeepers appealed to the state government to allow them to open for business. On July 12, traders in Kozhikode had launched a massive protest and clashed with the police on the streets for not allowing shops to open on all days of the week.

The Kerala government had divided regions into four categories - A,B,C and D, with TPR less than 5%, between 5% to 10%, between 10% to 15% and above 15% respectively. As part of the relaxations, in category A,B and C areas, establishments like textiles, footwear shops, jewellery, fancy stores, shops selling home appliances, electronic items, apart from essential shops, were allowed to open from July 18 to 20 from 7 am to 8 pm. While in Category D, the shops were only allowed to open on July 19.

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